Aus PM denounces foreign vote meddling after NRA report

CANBERRA   -  Australia’s prime minister on Tuesday expressed concern over an Al Jazeera report that an influential minor political party had asked the US gun lobby for donations to help undermine Australian gun laws.

A three-year Al Jazeera investigation showed One Nation party officials Steve Dickson and James Ashby flew to the United States for meetings with the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun interest groups in September last year, just weeks before the Australian Parliament banned foreign political donations. It is unclear whether they secured any money.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government had made laws to “criminalise taking foreign political donations so foreign lobbyists cannot seek to influence our politics”.

The Al Jazeera report, using secret recordings made by Rodger Muller, a journalist posing as a gun lobbyist, with a hidden camera, comes ahead of Australian elections expected in May.

One Nation, an anti-Muslim party that had four senators after the 2016 election but has been left with two after defections, said in a statement that all party members “have always complied with the law”. The NRA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Accusing Al Jazeera of vote meddling, One Nation said it complained to the main domestic security agency and police “due to concerns of foreign interference into Australian politics in the lead up to the imminent federal election”, it said.

“Al Jazeera are a state-owned propaganda arm of the Qatari government … and are not a legitimate media organisation,” the party said.

The role of One Nation in promoting right-wing nationalism in Australia has come under the spotlight in recent days following the killing of 50 Muslims in New Zealand, allegedly by an Australian white supremacist.

New Zealand has responded by banning a range of semi-automatic weapons and foreshadowing a government-funded buyback of newly outlawed guns. The country’s response is similar to how Australia strengthened its gun laws following the murders of 35 people by a lone gunman in 1996 in Tasmania.

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